Chuck Thompson spent part of yesterday afternoon addressing a group of retirees. Today, he very well could decide to separate himself from their ranks.
Thompson, 69, who retired from Baltimore Orioles television play-by-play after 1987, but worked about 25 Orioles games on WBAL Radio as a fill-in this year, said he expects to tell WBAL today whether he will return next season in an even larger role.
Thompson said yesterday: "I have not signed. I have not agreed. We [he and representative Ron Shapiro] are to talk tomorrow and make a decision at that time."
"We've come a long way, and I expect to hear from Ron in the next day or so," said Jeff Beauchamp, WBAL vice president and station manager.
WBAL needs a fill-in announcer for Jon Miller, its No. 1 play-by-play man, who probably will miss half of the radio games while working ESPN major-league telecasts and Orioles games on Channel 2.
In addition, the station is in the process of choosing a replacement for Miller's partner the last three seasons, Joe Angel, who recently left to become a New York Yankees radio announcer. WBAL expects to hire Angel's replacement by the end of the year, Beauchamp said.
Thompson said money and travel are his two main concerns with the Orioles job.
Though calling himself "a lousy businessman," Thompson said he would have to balance the benefits of a salary from WBAL against the effects on his taxes and Social Security payments.
"The other thing is the travel. I'd be interested if I could get a schedule just doing home games," said Thompson, though he dismissed the chances of getting such a schedule.
Thompson also has said he would commit to only one year of returning to the air.
If Thompson decides to work as Miller's fill-in next year, WBAL then could turn its full attention to selecting a full-time No. 2 announcer.
Beauchamp said he has received about 50 audition tapes since Angel left, with two or three now arriving each day. Today, he and Miller will work on paring the list of candidates, Beauchamp said, expecting to eliminate about 80 percent. Though a majority of those applying are in Class AAA jobs, some have major-league experience and a few hold major-league announcing jobs, Beauchamp said, though he declined to reveal names.
Still left unresolved is the Channel 2 announcing situation. Miller may work a little more than half of WMAR's 53 games. But Jim Palmer, Channel 2 play-by-play announcer the last two seasons, has not committed to returning. Palmer has said he may pursue other opportunities (more ESPN work, another team's broadcasts) rather than accept a reduced number of play-by-play assignments and be a local analyst for much less money than he could make in the same role with, say, ESPN.
Meanwhile, analyst Brooks Robinson has said he would prefer working half of Channel 2's games instead of a full schedule.
Got all that?
When the network accountants tote up CBS' World Series performance, it may come down to a photo finish for the team that was least productive, the Oakland Athletics or CBS. In some ways, the focus on how CBS' $1.06 billion baseball investment fell flat has shunted its on-air effort into the background.
But, when it came to the telecasts, that billion-dollar price tag didn't turn into a ball and chain. If any broadcasters were feeling pressure, it certainly didn't show.
CBS' Series telecasts were relaxed affairs. Maybe you can argue that the Fall Classic, the World Serious, the World Championship of Baseball needs a more frenetic air about it. Maybe you, but not me.
The tone set by pre-game host Pat O'Brien and play-by-play announcer Jack Buck invited a viewer to kick back in his easy chair and watch the game unfold, not sit on the edge of his seat for each pitch. And that's how it should be. Viewers don't need to be constantly reminded that the World Series is a Big Event. Presumably, that's why they're watching it.
O'Brien, perhaps as much as any sports announcer, communicates that attitude with his on-air manner. And Buck has called enough baseball to know when it's time to turn up the volume.
Buck's analyst partner, Tim McCarver, is another matter. His intensity is one of his strong points, whether it's a mid-July New York Mets-Chicago Cubs game or Game 4 of the Series. Buck and McCarver are two very different broadcasting personalities, and the one drawback to CBS' coverage was that they didn't always meld well. Too often, McCarver seemed engaged in monologues, rather than engaging discussions with Buck.
There were plenty of nice touches to the shows. The gamsummaries are helpful not only to those who tuned in late, but also to those with short memories. The other graphics were generally instructive, and replays, though not kept to a minimum, didn't bog down the broadcast.
Overall, CBS' games looked much like those produced by NBC and ABC in recent years, and there's nothing wrong with that.